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What Debate Did YOU Watch?

October 4, 2012

by J. Andrew Zalucky

Regardless of what long-term effect last night’s debate will have on the election, the chattering classes in the media have blown its initial result WAY out of proportion. If you want to test what mass media does to shape the popular consensus, just watch cable news directly after the debate.

But if you’d rather have a balanced and informed opinion- turn the TV off for a few minutes, take a deep breath, and form your own reaction first.

My thoughts went something like this:

Well, that was a pretty even debate, Obama looked a little stale- but that’s just the nature of his political character. He held his composure well and made a couple good points about where the savings would have to come from in a Romney/Ryan budget. Romney did pretty well too. In fact, he did a little better than Obama, and this might actually win him some votes. NOT because he came out as some saber-rattling Tea Party fanatic that he tried to look like during the primary. But because he looked and sounded like the Centrist, Rockefeller-Republican he was as Governor of Massachusetts. In fact, he agreed with the president so often that he could even be accused of Clintonian-style triangulation- taking on the most popular agenda items of the opposition, as a way of isolating it and consolidating your own.

Then I turned on MSNBC and Fox News…

On MSNBC, some of the pundits seemed to be having a seizure. While The Nation’s Chris Hayes’ analysis was very similar to my own, Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz, and Al Sharpton were all screaming “Where was Obama tonight!?!?” ect, ect, ect. Timothy Noah has a pretty good take on this craziness in an article in The New Republic. People love to criticize Obama for not going after Romney for the 47% remark he made back in May. You know what? I think that was the right thing to do. Because that stupid comment he made is a non-issue and Obama knows it. He knows it because he too has to suck-up to rich donors with the same sort of divisive populist crap. If he tried to use it as an attack, he would only be opening himself up to an even worse one.

And then there was Fox. While Greta Van Sustren and Bret Baier remarked that it was simply a good night for Romney, Sean Hannity declared it “A Rocky Mountain Smackdown”. Then there was the ludicrous spectacle of the “panel” of Denver voters, most of them middle age whites, whose minds were all suddenly “changed by the debate”. It turns out of course, these were not Urban Denver voters but people from the Suburbs who would more predictably say what Fox would want them to say. And of course Fox trotted out how “the mainstream media” will spin this in a different way to deceive the American people. I find it funny when the most watched Cable News network tries to pass itself off as “not mainstream”.

Please.

Romney had a good night and should capitalize on it. Obama was a little too cold and aloof and should have been more ready with some policy criticisms. But it was in no way a huge home run for Romney or a devastating shut-out for Obama.

Besides, until other candidates like Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are allowed in, these debates are little more than theater and deserve to be taken with a healthy serving of salt.

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